How to clean the wood-fired oven in five easy steps.

Cooking in a wood-fired oven is a very emotional experience and gives food an inimitably smoky taste. So, nowadays, if you have a wood-burning oven in your home or in your garden, you can count yourself lucky. Firewood is the oldest cooking fuel and despite the entry into the market of more modern and convenient cooking appliances that run on different combustibles, it remains the best power source quality-wise. Obviously, to make the most of your wood-fired oven, after cooking pizzas, puddings and plenty of other delicacies, a minimum of maintenance and cleaning is required.

Five tips for cleaning your oven to perfection

Cleaning the wood-fired oven is quite crucial to keep it at peak condition and, most of all, to prevent food from absorbing pesky smell or bad taste. Frequently, pizzas that look bad and taste worse are only the result of baking them in an oven not very well cleaned. The quality and fragrance of food baked in a wood-burning oven is in fact not exclusively due to the kind of cooking but also to the proper cleaning of the appliance. It’s no big deal anyway: following these simple tips, the wood-fired oven will be ready to cook all kinds of food enhancing their flavour among other things.

Choosing the right tools is the key

To clean the wood-fired oven perfectly, the first step is to choose the right tools and everything you need. Definitely, you can’t do without:

  • one shovel
  • one half-moon shaped copper wire brush
  • water
  • vinegar
  • one large brass wire brush
  • one cloth

In addition, the most experienced pizza makers recommend using a bellows to blow the ash away from the oven floor without risk of burning oneself. After lighting the fire and pushing the fire to the side, the bellows comes in handy to clear the floor and to start cooking pizzas and other delicacies.

1 – Which is the best time to clean your wood-fired oven and to sweep its flue?

It may sound trivial and obvious but it’s worth repeating that you wait until the oven, especially its floor, has properly cooled down before cleaning it. The oven works best if it’s cleaned daily. Another very important aspect in the maintenance of the wood-fired oven is that its flue must be swept periodically to remove blockages and soot. Don’t worry, it’s really simple and economical. Scrub with a large brass wire brush until you have cleaned the length of the flue then remove the soot and clean the oven floor.

2 – Ash removal: an all-important operation for a proper cleaning of your oven

Usually, wood-fired ovens are made of refractory bricks that can withstand very high temperatures if some maintenance tips are followed. Cleaning the oven is a prerequisite to guarantee an excellent cooking of the food. The first step is to remove ash that is only the consistent by-product of the combustion of wood. For clearing the largest part of it, you can use a shovel or a brush coupled with a scraper or a knife to scratch away detritus or residual food being careful not to damage the oven floor. Then you can use the half-moon shaped wire brush or the bellows if you want to take cleaning to another level. The presence of soot traces on food, the difficulties for the oven to achieve high temperatures or the excess smoke when cooking very often mean trouble for the chimney flue. In this case, roll up your sleeves and remove the soot ensconced even in the hard-to-reach spots thanks to a brush wrapped in a wet cloth. We recommend repeating this operation twice.

3 – Cleaning of encrustations and grease stains

In the event of food deposits or grease stains on the oven floor, just raise the oven temperature and then clear these encrustations that the heat has dissolved. To remove grease stains, rub the offending areas with a sponge soaked in water and vinegar and rinse. As mentioned earlier, make sure the oven is turned off and cold to avoid burns before cleaning it. Do not use detergents because they could alter the taste of food. Basically, a wood-burning oven doesn’t require much more maintenance than the regular checks scheduled for a stove. Considering the temperature at which an oven operates, it’s very unlikely that large soot deposits build up; if some remain after the coals have cooled, they will be burned next time you use the oven or, at worst, a quick scrub with a wet sponge will do the trick.

4 – Cracks in the wood-fired oven; how to avoid soot deposits

Right now, it’s better to check that there are no cracks in the oven dome (except for the steel-dome ovens). Generally, hairline cracks do happen. The problem arises when these cracks get bigger so that hard-to-reach soot deposits can nestle in these interstices. Sometimes, through these gaps, soot makes its way up to the isolation layer and can build up to the level where it can catch fire. You can use the bellows to blow ash away from the oven floor. Nowadays some companies offer a wide range of steel dome ovens that are not subject to such cracks and are much more comfortable and easier to clean compared to the traditional ovens. In addition to this, they are more energy-efficient and have less heat loss.

5 – Cleaning the wood-fired oven is easier than it looks

Finally, a last tip to keep your wood-fired oven from getting dirty: always moisten the floor before baking your food. If after the first use, some cracking appears, try not to worry; these cracks are the result of the thermal expansion of refractories and it’s only natural or rather beneficial for the oven to work correctly. To sum up, cooking in a wood-burning oven is simple and economical even though it’s not without pitfalls, but you can easily get around them by doing some smart moves.